Gremlin Theatre turns a switcheroo from charming sentiment to sassy French farce.
Peter Hansen barely had time to shake off his Irish accent and get back on stage in a door-slamming French farce.
Hansen's Gremlin Theatre opens "An Absolute Turkey" at its St. Paul digs on Friday, less than two weeks after he closed "Sea Marks."
The tight turnaround arose from a scheduling snafu and Hansen's desire to produce four Gremlin shows this season.
"It's a little tough," Hansen said. "I've worked on other shows that were close together, but from a time-consuming point of view, you're virtually rehearsing all the time. But you've got to work."
Hansen has kept busy this season -- both at his storefront theater along University Avenue and in other venues large and small. In November, he played the male lead in Gremlin's intense production of "After Miss Julie" in the servants kitchen at the James J. Hill House. In January, he was on the Guthrie thrust stage in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Then he teamed up with Stacia Rice for "Sea Marks," a charming little two-hander at Gremlin's home space. He has let up on the throttle for "Turkey" and said he'll play a smaller role.
"It's really just for fun," he said.
Gremlin has been in its current theater since moving out of downtown St. Paul in 2008. At 99 seats, it is one of the most intimate houses in town, but Hansen has worked steadily to improve Gremlin's quality. Lanford Wilson's incendiary drama "Burn This," which fell victim to consecutive weekend snowstorms in December 2010, nonetheless drew enough attention that Hansen won Ivey recognition for his performance. In "After Miss Julie," there was a fierce heat between Hansen and Anna Sundberg (not that Amanda Whisner was any slouch).
Hansen also has been eager to get new plays into the space, such as inviting a co-production with playwright Alan Berks for "How to Cheat" last winter.
"It's been a very good season for us," Hansen said. "Attendance has been good, and we feel that people have discovered the space as a destination. I'm glad to see that happen."
As a destination, Gremlin has had to deal with the disruption caused by light-rail construction along University Avenue.
"Because we operate off-hours, we caught a little bit of a break," Hansen said. "Logistically, though, they took away our parking out front, so it's more difficult for load-ins but we survived the construction part well."
Hansen said that the first show he did with Gremlin was a farce, "Don't Dress for Dinner." Because these pieces usually require bigger casts (and at least three sturdy door frames), it is more difficult to control quality.
"An Absolute Turkey" is a translation by Nicky Frei and Sir Peter Hall of Georges Feydeau's work, "Le Dindon." Suffice it to say, the show involves extramarital lusts, hotel assignations and lots of bad timing -- which needs to be precise timing in the staging.
"With Feydeau, he takes two characters and sticks them into a situation that they don't belong in, and then keeps adding salt," Hansen said. "The uncontrolled desperation is what keeps it going."
Hansen's 12-person cast includes Joe Bombard, Ryan Lindberg, Katharine Moeller, Peter Ooley, Sara Richardson and Candy Simmons.
"We've wanted to do an old-style French farce for a long time," Hansen said, noting the difficulties in a small space. "We just decided to throw caution to the wind."